A Cycle Of Crime in a Book in Cold Blood
In Cold Blood
The 50’s was an era in American history where it was relatively quiet, the calm before a storm. The murder of the Clutter family in a small stale Kansas town radiated the midwest 50’s into a world of crime and where nothing was safe anymore. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, examines what happens when the world of criminality and a “safe” world collide and the factors that go into why one chooses a life of crime in the first place.
The criminal world is introduced as one for the forgotten and mainly the “mentally unfit”, they do not conform to society so they are forced to make do on their own. “And in his own seclusive world it seemed to him just as right to kill his mother as to kill an animal or fly” (201). The criminals stop regarding the “functional” members of society because they are envious of their success, so they exploit them, and kill them. They live in the shadows, from city to city, ready for their next bait. “He might be ready to kill you, but you’d never know it, not to look at or listen to” (67). The world of criminality is described as on the edge, intense, and full of unawareness.
The “safe” world is a quiet one, ruled by religion and what’s deemed morally right, always. “A belief in God and the rituals surrounding that belief – church every Sunday, grace before meals, prayers before bed – were an important part of the Deweys’ existence” (65). The inhabits of the this world trust each other unlike in the criminal world where everyone is on their own. There’s a plain subtle aspect to it, and they live peacefully in it’s dull setting, “Situated at the end of a long, lane like driveway shaded by rows of Chinese elms, the handsome white house, standing on an ample lawn of groomed Bermuda grass, impressed Holcomb; it was a place people pointed out” (5). The “normal” world is peaceful and still until it collides with the criminal one, “If it wasn’t him, maybe it was you. Or somebody across the street. All the neighbors are rattlesnakes. Varmints looking for a chance to slam the door in your face” (44). The trust is destroyed forever and morals are crushed as it is revealed to the rest of the midwest that not everyone is morally as good as them.
Dick Hickock was once a normal man. He was led into a life of crime after a car accident, “I still think the reason he started doing stunts such as that was connected with the smash-up. Concussed his head in a car smash-up. After that, he wasn’t the same boy. Gambling, writing bad checks” (102). Scamming everyone he knew, he traveled the country ruthfully until the Clutters family murder. He had no commitments like “normal” people of society, he stayed with no women and preyed on young girls with his charm, “He [Hickock] did the work. A very smooth talker, very convincing” (103). Dick has the possibility to be a decent man in society but was not rightly supported, “After he graduated from high school June, 1949 – he wanted to go on to college. Study to be an engineer. But we couldn’t do it. Plain didn’t have the money. Never have had any money” (102). While all the factors leading to his turn into a criminal weren’t exactly in his life plan before his accident, Dick contributed by continuing to do bad every chance he got.
Herb Clutter, alpha of the Clutter family, was a righteous man. He, like the rest of the small Kansas city, took religion as a serious matter and that to be a successful person in society, religion had to pave the way “…he hardheaded the building committee for the newly completed First Methodist Church, an eight-hundred-thousand-dollar edifice” (3). He was able to become an educated individual, given the tools to go to college and partnered with one women to spend his life with. He differed from Dick by not only being given the tools to thrive in society but to also by making the right decisions to affect how he wanted to live his life and ultimately what sphere of the world he ended up in.
There is clear cut criteria to define the criminal and “normal” world, but the people who are in them, can end up there by a lot of factors they’re not responsible for. Dick’s accident and his constant bad decisions lead him to a road of murder and preying on in innocent people without a care. Herb Clutter being given the tools to thrive was able to end up in the respectable part of society where everyone aims to be at. The problem is that being placed there sometimes makes other people envious of that place. Radiating an entire decade into a cycle of crime is what happened when both the sphere of criminal and “safe” meet.
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